By Josephine Lee–

With over 500 acres of land in its name, the University of Louisville has taken strides to lessen its environmental impact and enhance sustainability on all three campuses. The efforts extend over all university operations: building production and maintenance, food service and preparation and transportation. With the coordination of the Sustainability Council, U of L has had a dramatic increase in campus sustainability awareness events and programs.

The U of L Campus Sustainability Walking Tour, which took place Friday, Oct. 21 during Sustainability Week, took students through fourteen different sites around Belknap Campus that had green practices. The Sustainability Council reshapes campus community and organizations around the principles of sustainability. Many of these sustainability operations include the implementation of single-stream recycling or more water bottle filling stations to eliminate bottled water use. However, other projects, such as the organic Garden Commons, involve the student population to lead sustainability endeavors.

One stop on the walking tour was Garden Commons. The Garden Commons project, located next to the Cultural Center, provides a common ground for students and faculty to interact with others and the surroundings in a manner that is beneficial to both their health and the environment. Knowledge of how to grow food, food policy issues and benefits of sustainable growing practices are important for the future of the planet and are central to the Garden Commons project.

“There is no greater connection back to our earth and back to our local community through food. We have pushed putting local food in our dining halls and there is a farmer’s market on the Health Sciences campus,” says Justin Mog, assistant to the provost of sustainability.

U of L has a mission to be a premier metropolitan university and the process of coordinating a team project centered on city interests in food security and public health makes the Garden Commons initiative succeed. Through support with an outside organization, Louisville Grows, the Cultural Center has been able to bring in experts to educate students on how to make the garden community succeed.

With all the workshops and learning opportunities, it is the goal of Sustainability Council to supply the necessary education for students to continue “green” practices, during and even after college. It is also important for the university to provide a good example for students, faculty and the community to model. In an attempt to curb U of L’s carbon footprint, the university has provided numerous incentives for people not to drive to campus. Free TARC services have been available to all students since 1999 and a new initiative for students is to be implemented fall 2012.

“If students forgo a parking pass for two years, the university will provide the student with a free bike,” says Mog.

Many of the fourteen sites on the tour are “green” at its very existence. The steam and chilled water plant now operates coal-free and the renovation of the Duthie Center for Engineering was built with intentions to secure Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification.

According to Speed School of Engineering Dean Mickey Wilhelm, “LEED provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction based on water efficiency, energy use, environmentally friendly materials and resources, and indoor quality.”

Other “green” technology that students saw on the walking tour include the dual-tracking solar panels in Sackett Hall, the green conference rooms in Gardiner Hall and the green dorm room in Louisville Hall.

Sophomore Brooke Shelton, biology major, participated in the walking tour and seemed impressed with the green dorm room in Louisville Hall. The room was built with clay walls and bamboo flooring through a collaborative effort between housing staff and students in a sustainable architecture course.

“I really liked how the green room was still sustainable without being too overpowering. There weren’t too many noticeable differences except for the large window. A larger window would be pretty great to have in my room now; I would love to be able to have more natural light for when I study,” says Shelton.

U of L has a responsibility as a premier metropolitan university to take the initiative in practicing environmentally friendly procedure. The university has taken great strides to promote sustainability actions and has responded to environmental experts with more environmentally friendly buildings and fair-trade practices.

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Photo: Eric Voet/The Louisville Cardinal